Player Profile: Eric Barton
By: Matt Simon for Raiderfans.net
Eric Barton was a fifth round draft pick out of Maryland who was just thought to add depth to the Raiders at linebacker and help at special teams. Barton was supposedly too small, according to most scouts, to have a true impact in the NFL. As a result, the Butkus Award candidate fell to the fifth round of the 1999 NFL Draft, in which he was drafted by the Raiders. In all of his five years in Oakland, he has proved his critics wrong.
Eric Barton was a tremendous player for the Terrapins. He was always around the ball and made every tackle. He also led the ACC in tackles for his last two years at Maryland, and he recorded over 100 tackles from his sophomore year to his senior year. Barton was considered too small to play the position, as he weighed 230 lb. during his senior year.
Barton was given plenty of chances to shine during his rookie year. He played on the Raidersí special teams unit and he made the most of it, sacking the quarterback three times and having twenty-nine tackles in miniscule playing time.
Even with Bartonís strong rookie showing, he was buried deep in the Raidersí depth chart, and he only had six tackles as he barely played in the 2000 season.
Barton had thirty-eight total tackles in the 2001 season, but he did not get a large amount of playing time because he was playing behind Greg Biekert, Elijah Alexander, and William Thomas.
Barton had his breakout season in 2002. With Biekert, Alexander, and Thomas either getting released or retiring, Barton took the starting weak side linebacker position. Barton, rookie Napoleon Harris, and grizzled veteran Bill Romanowski formed one of the best linebacking tandems in the NFL. Barton showed the Raiders that he was not too small to play linebacker in the NFL. He had six sacks, (second on the Raiders behind Rod Coleman) two interceptions, and he led the Raiders in tackles with 125. He continued to dominate in the playoffs as he had an incredible game in the AFC Championship game. Barton was a key reason as to why the Raiders made it to the Super Bowl.
Eric Barton did even better than he did in 2002 with a weaker supporting cast. John Parella missed most of the year with a groin injury, and Barton did not have as many holes in the offensive line to make plays from. Six different players started at linebacker and Bill Romanowski missed most of the year with a career-threatening concussion. With a weaker supporting cast, Barton still played well and anchored the defense along with Charles Woodson and Napoleon Harris.
Eric Barton has started the past 35 games for the Raiders, and he has been one of the most consistent players during that span. After a Pro-Bowl caliber year, he followed it up with a year just as high quality. The Eric Barton story shows that it does not matter how big you are, it matters how big your work ethic and perseverance is.
Resources: Espn.com Nfl.com
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